Rachel Antonoff, Designer


"I fell into designing in the weirdest, most backwards way: I had a roommate in college, Alison Lewis, and we both loved dresses and clothes. I’d have daydreams about clothes and how fabulous I’d look in them. Alison and I would be like, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a dress like this and a print like that?’ We went to Mood to buy fabric, and then we took it to my old neighbor in New Jersey whose mom was the lady in town who sewed stuff. We gave her our drawings and then she made them. That was really exciting and so bizarre. We took pictures of ourselves in them, called our line Mooka Kinney, and sent the photos to Jane Keltner [de Valle] at Teen Vogue. God bless her, she called us into her office for a meeting, then featured us in the magazine and called Barneys that day! It was freakish. We had less than no idea what we were doing, but were validated in a way that was totally undeserved and too soon. We weren’t a fully formed company yet, but people thought we were because we were in a magazine and we were in Barneys. It was really an intense education, and we kept it going for three years.

That was nine years ago, and with that line I made so many mistakes, but I learned from all of the fuck-ups. I started Rachel Antonoff feeling vaguely like I knew what I was doing. I never went to fashion school, so my process is: I jog, I get ideas, I jot them down when I get home, and make them into these terrible drawings. Then someone amazing extracts them and translates them into beautiful sketches, and then they become real. I personally put such a high premium on comfort. It’s great to look good and want to be presentable and cute, but if you’re not comfortable, there’s no point. My line is all about clothes that you can really wear and have fun in. They’re a little silly; they have a sense of humor.

My approach to beauty is very laid-back—all I really use, makeup-wise, is YSL Eyeliner Effet Faux Cils Shocking in Black. It’s the one thing that I would rather not live without. It’s felt, so it’s easier for me to use than straight liquid liner. I usually do a cat eye with it. Then I use Make Up For Ever Crayon Kohl Pencil on the bottom waterline in Black. I usually forget to wear mascara, but when I do, I like MAC False Lashes Extreme Black. I’m actually dying to get eyelash extensions. These aren’t my real lashes. I like to wear individuals by Make Up For Ever—I feel significantly better when I wear them. If it could be a permanent thing, I would be thrilled.

Under my eyes, Givenchy's Mister Light Instant Light Corrective Pen is a 'sometimes.' And, for my lips, I am truly addicted to Blistex Lip Medex. I don’t even leave it in my purse when I’m places. It has to be out on the table. It’s embarrassing. Also, I’m really a big fan of the fact that if you go to Sephora and ask them how you put on eyeliner, they’ll basically do your makeup for you... I mean, you have to buy it after, but sometimes if I want to look nice, I’ll just go to Sephora.

So, while my makeup is 'nice,' I basically troll the aisles of Walgreen’s to get things for my body and face. I’ve only had one skincare splurge. Recently, I went to see the facialist Terri Lawton  in L.A. She was amazing. I don’t even want to say how much it was. It was really shocking. OK, fine, it was $700 for a facial and products! My friend’s assistant was like, 'You have to see Terri. I’m making you an appointment.’ She did microdermabrasion, which was terrifying, but I left looking really young. And, she gave me some takeaways that were invaluable. She said, ‘You’re going to love your forties.’ I don’t know why, and I don’t know if she’s just making this shit up, but I’m excited. I’m turning 32 soon, so I’m not that far off. It’s nice to know there’s fun stuff in my future.

Terri also gave me one thing that is the best thing I have: Retinol. When I have a zit now I put that on it, and it’s gone; it’s insane. It’s disgusting and smells so bad, but if you put it on your pimple, within a few days, it will be gone. I’m usually sort of afraid to try products, because of how I little I know about them; I don’t know where to begin. Before Terri, my entire skincare system was from the drugstore. I love Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips. They really work, and pull out crazy stuff from my nose. I'll do one every once in a while when I remember. I also really love Neutrogena Oil Free Cleansing Pads and Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes.

My big thing has always been moisturizing. I like the basics—Oil of Olay night cream and Kiehl’s. For day, I use Fresh Soy Face Cream, which has SPF 20. Laurel Pantin was horrified that I wasn’t wearing sunblock every day, and now I’m worried that I started all of these things too late. I’ve never even bothered with eye cream. I’m just starting to pay attention to these things.

For example, I love the smell of Irish Spring soap. It’s amazing, but I found out I was destroying my body with it. It’s really harsh, and, I might as well just say it—you cannot use it on your vagina. I went to see my doctor because I was irritated and I was like, ‘Something terrible is happening.’ She asked me what kind of soap I was using, and when I said, ‘Irish Spring,’ she looked so horrified, and told me that I can’t use it down there. So I figured maybe I shouldn’t use it on the rest of my body either, even though it smells like heaven. I switched to Dove, and then I use some of this lavender crap: Dead Sea Essentials by Ahava Calming Lavender Shower Cream. That has been helpful. But I still keep Irish Spring around, just for the smell.

I’m really into clean smells. That’s why I love Kiehl’s Grapefruit Deluxe Hand and Body Lotion, too—it smells so good. A lot of products’ scents are too sweet for me, but this is just on the border. It’s the best. And, at night, Aveeno’s Skin Relief Overnight Cream is incredible. You really feel like it’s working all night. I put it everywhere, especially my feet. They are naturally like old-man feet, so I’m hoping that helps. I’m even becoming a candle person because of scents. Someone gave me two Diptyque Feu de Bois candles and their smell actually thrills me. Now it’s the sort of thing where I feel like I can’t live without them. I will have to get more.

Hair-wise, I’m really incapable of doing my own. I have this Arrojo brush that I do my bangs with, but otherwise, I go to Dry Bar about three times a month. I’ll have them do it and let it chill for a little while, but when I don’t go I look like Little Orphan Annie. My hair is a disgusting, big frizzy mess. I either get it done or just go full dog and let it go. There’s no middle ground; I should work on that. I’m the same way with hair removal, actually, it’s either spick-and-span or full-blown ‘70s. [Laughs]

I have very dark hair, naturally. I didn’t intend to go blonde. It was one of those gradual things that started with a few highlights. Cut to a year later, and now I’m a blonde. It took me so long to get it this light that I think I’ll keep it for a while. I only have to get it touched up every six weeks, by Tabitha at Arrojo; I love her so much. She also told me to try Arrojo Gentle Shampoo and Arrojo Moisturizing Conditioner. The purple one is better for my damaged hair, but the green one smells better. I also just love the smell of products from Frédéric Fekkai.

Being blonde randomly coincided with being single for the first time in many, many years, so I’m generally having more fun… but I can’t confirm that it’s because I’m blonde."

—as told to ITG

Rachel Antonoff photographed by Emily Weiss in New York on April 30, 2013.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Lana

    She is definitely different than many of the past top shelves. Her hair and eyes are wonderful, too.

  • Miss Y.

    Love this! Really interesting story. That second picture is amazing btw, I wish I could duplicate that kind of smokey eye, because it does not look like she just slapped on a little eyeliner. Very sultry. She looks gorgeous!

    • Lana

      TRUE! I was wondering the same thing. It is like a red/brown smokey eye. Hmm. Help please, ITG? :)

  • Cay

    I love her! I love almost all of your Top Shelves, but it's really nice to have a break from all of the French girls who are all "I don't wear makeup."

    • Zhanna

      This time it's an American girl who is all "I don't wear makeup." :)

      • Lana


  • Ann

    Gah, I love her! So honest and humoristic approach to beauty and skincare!

    • Ona_in_Barcelona

      Ha, I wanted to leave exactly the same comment! She's cool!

  • Holly

    So happy you did a top shelf on her... She always looks so pretty! What lip glosses are in the picture? I love the pink and peachy colors!

  • pamb

    She looks like Patricia Arquette! (And I want to know which retinol product she is using). I have only used Dove soap on my kids since they were little. I've told my daughter that she is only to use Dove 'down there'.....

  • magicmollys

    Like like like!

  • http://fancylauren.blogspot.com/ Lauren Ashley

    Love her approach, and her story is so interesting.

  • Zaza


  • Amanda


  • Sylvie

    Great story! Love the photography. Too bad Kiehl's now tests on animals. Gah. Thanks, China.

  • caitlin willard

    ok she is fabulous! i agree, something so nostalgic about the squeaky clean feeling and smell of irish spring...i am dying that she admits to it destroying her vagina. just like good old dr. bronner's peppermint soap...there should be a warning on these things! love her!

    • Leetoki

      Yeah I kind of smiled stupidly at a Top Shelf talking about vaginal irritation. Realtalk is the best!

  • jennifer

    Hah! She's hilarious. I love her for admitting that about the Irish Spring.

  • LW

    She is hiliarious. ‘Something terrible is happening.’

  • circafashion

    Thanks for Keepin It Real Rachel (Irish spring reference). Love it!

  • SM

    Love this! She's hilarious, self deprecating, and utterly beautiful. This really beats reading about all those vacuous "holistic health care acid alkaline god knows what else" nuts.

  • E

    Love her!!

  • Jasmine Alvarez

    haha I love her....and I'm said because I love irish spring......but i'll totally do away with it

  • Michelle Lee

    great story

  • Katrina Schenfield

    Love the "Shit There" picture. Is that some crazy chicken standing in the corner?! Or her? LOL!

  • Sylvie A

    this is like a 2006 selby


Eyeliner Effet Faux Cils
MAC 'False Lashes Extreme Black' Mascara
Givenchy Mister Light Instant Light Corrective Pen
Blistex Lip Medex, Lip Moisturizer
Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips
Neutrogena Rapid Clear
Neutrogena Rapid Clear Daily Treatment Pads Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment, Maximum Strength, 60 pads
Fresh Soy Moisturizing Cream
Dove Bar Soap
Kiehl's Since 1851
Kiehl's Since 1851 Ultra Facial Cream
Kiehl's Since 1851
Kiehl's Since 1851 Deluxe Hand & Body Lotion with Aloe Vera & Oatmeal (Grapefruit)
Irish Spring
Irish Spring Deodorant Soap
Aveeno Active Naturals Intense Relief Overnight Cream
diptyque Feu de Bois Scented Candle
Frederic Fekkai
Frederic Fekkai ADVANCED Salon Technician Color Care Duo